It was the day before the third big game hunting season and small groups of hunters were standing around the Bears Ears Sportsman Club, with rifles slung over their shoulders, fighting to talk over the reports of rifles on the range. The man running the range stood in front with a clip board in hand writing down names, keeping things organized.
"What are your guys' names?" he asked.
"Tyler, Judd and Mark," came the reply.
"Taylor, Bud and Clark, you're up next," he shouted.
Close enough. The trio walked into the bunker-like structure and took a place at one of the bench rests.
The Bears Ears Sportsman Club provides an invaluable service to hunters who visit Craig. The range is open to the public for three days before each of the three big game hunting seasons. Not only is it open for everyone to sight in a rifle, but for $5 members supply fresh targets, a safe shooting environment, hearing protection and hot coffee. Each shooter also has an experienced coach sitting next to them with a spotting scope that shows exactly where shots are hitting on the target and what adjustments need to be made to get the rifle shooting correctly.
According to Jay D. Jensen, who recently stepped down as president of the club, for any hunter it is critical that a rifle be sighted in before going after any big game animal. Many hunters have traveled from around the country to Craig and it is only sporting they make sure their rifle has remained accurate after the bumps and knocks it receives along its trip. Hunters coming from lower elevations must adjust to the change in air pressure that affects the flight of a bullet.
"As with any hunting sport it is important to make a sure, one-shot kill," said Jensen. "You owe it to the animals. It comes down to respect for the animals, respect for the sport and respect for yourself."
Not every sighting-in goes flawlessly. According to Bill Muldoon, one of the volunteers who helps hunters, there have been some strange happenings on the range from time to time.
There have been people who were using the wrong kind of ammunition for their firearm. There have been hunters with broken guns who can't figure out why they aren't shooting in a consistent pattern and hunters who haven't even been able to hit the target and have said close enough.
Jensen has seen some strange things on the range, also.
"I have seen hunters who have asked the volunteers to sight in their rifle because they are afraid of the kick," said Jensen. "I saw one party of six hunters who had one person sight in all of their guns because they didn't like the recoil. One guy took one shot at the paper target 100 yards away, missed and wanted to shoot at the steel deer 300 yards away. There have been some strange things, but I would say that 99 percent of the hunters come in, fire half a dozen shots, adjust them a bit and are on their way."
Some final adjustments and 15 bullets later the trio was ready to head into the mountains in search of elk. The Bears Ears Sportsman Club and its volunteers helped them and hundreds of other hunters feel confident in the ability of their firearms.